Vetter Windmill

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Where Did that Windmill Come From? - by Mark Shoemaker

Have you even wondered where that old windmill on PCH came from? Here is the story. Herman Vetter came to the United States from Germany, and settled in Hermosa Beach in 1903. He bought property between 16th Street to approximately 21st Street between Ardmore and PCH. Later that year he drilled a well and put up a windmill to help supply water to grow flowers. His daughter Maleine sold flowers to local business offices and cafes in town out of a small wagon. Maleine later opened a small florist shop (located at the Best Foods/ Stars Antiques building) which she owned and operated until her marriage c.1920.

Herman Vetter was active in Hermosa Beach, participating in the incorporation, the Board of Trustees in 1906, and the first City Council. Vetter also helped obtain property for Ocean View (first school built in HB).

Fast forward to 1969...

 

The Vetter property now belonged to another individual, who offered to donate the windmill to the City of Hermosa Beach. Citizens were excited, and recommended Greenwood park for the new location.

Carol Tanner and I were on the City's Improvement Commission, which was formed to keep the city neat and tidy.  We were horrified when a darling little train depot building on the corner of Pier Ave and the Santa Fe tracks suddenly disappeared – overnight!  So when we heard that the Hermosa Windmill, along with its water tower was going to be demolished to make way for a batch of apartments, we sprang into action.  The windmill was a landmark to us, having been built many years previously to water local fields of flowers. 

 

Fortunately, the City Council at that time was very commission friendly and we were told if we could find a suitable site and a way to move the structure, with NO city money, we could try and save it. The little park at the corner of P.C.H. and Pier Ave. was a perfect spot.  We heard of a nearby group of Seabees and lobbied them to come down and look the situation over.  They agreed to do the move. A local artist, Harold Grieve, did a wonderful woodblock print of the windmill and we sold prints for 'seed money', and the City Treasurer, Mary Edgerton, was a huge help in the political arena. 

 

It took a few weeks for the dismantling (the Seabees were only on active duty on the weekends) and what fun it was. Somehow we got possession of a real, live, catering truck and on it we cooked hot dogs, chili and assorted hungry man stuff to feed the volunteers.  Most of the town came to watch and cheer as the structure was moved down PCH to its present location.  We finally had our very own historic landmark. When the windmill was dedicated we decided to have a little art festival on that piece of parkland.  People came with children, dogs and picnics and all had a wonderful time. 

 

It was so wonderful that Carol and I were asked to try an art festival at the foot of the Pier. We called it the "Festival by the Sand and Sea", and created ribbon participation awards festooned with little seashells. All local artists were invited to participate.  We even got Parks and Recreation to let us use their tables and chairs and businessmen donated coffee and donuts for those who participated. 

 

We had painters painting, weavers weaving and many things for children.  Pat Woolley was helping youth with silk screening, Doc Ackroyd had his potter's wheel churning away, and Leroy Grannis was there with his surfing photos.  Of course there was NO CHARGE to the exhibitors, as we wanted this to be a fun, family day, showcasing local artists and allowing them to sell their art.

 

The festival was such a huge success that we were encouraged to have it as a yearly event.  We did, and as it grew and grew we had to do without the tables and chairs and coffee and donuts, but still kept it free for the artists.  The Chamber of Commerce then asked to take it over as a moneymaking event, so, “we gave it to them”.  As Hermosa grew, so did this little " Festival by the Sea ".  Now I see it is a huge event happening two times a year!  Goodness, what changes a few decades make! (Note: Joanne Purpus thankfully submitted this article. The photo is of the Vetter Windmill on its original site near Ardmore and 16th Street)